Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Monsters Chasing Monsters [Guest Post]

By GW Thomas

The history of the ghostbreaker changed on March 10, 1997 when Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired for the first time. (The movie doesn't count.) Whedon's popular character Angel split from the cast for his own show on October 5, 1999 to begin his own campaign against the darkness. And ever since then, most ghostbreakers have been supernatural beings.

Now, let's be fair. Whedon wasn't the first. Even Blade, created by Marv Wolfman, predates Angel. But Joss made them big business. The current "paranormal romance" trend starts with Buffy. By the end of the Buffy run they had dozens of slayers, two vampires, a werewolf, an ex-demon, a lounge-lizard demon, and a witch all pursuing evil. Despite this, the best characters (in my opinion) were Xander, Giles, Fred (pre-transformation), and Wesley. The humans. And perhaps Joss Whedon would nod his head and smile. Because that’s what he planned all along. The humans act as a mirror to his super-beings, whether they are ghostbusters or traveling around in space or fighting super-beings in the Marvel Universe. This is a Whedon thing. But it opened a door to another kind of Hell Mouth – the Monster That Fights Monsters. (It reminds me of that classic Gahan Wilson cartoon where a monster is running after another monster and the human observers says: “It one god-damned thing after another!”)

A 2009-2010 comic book shows just how far this monster-busters thing has gone: Casper and the Spectrals (Arden Entertainment, written by Todd Dezago and drawn by Pedro Delgad). Imagine cute little Casper who never had any friends because people always ran away saying "A g-g-g-ghost!" is now teamed up with Wendy and Hot Stuff as a monster-fighting team. It's well done but, really? Not even that One Percenter D-Bag Richie Rich to bring a little humanity to the gang.

I have to admit I'm old school. Call me a Kolchakian traditionalist if you like. I don't like my vamps to be good guys. I like my Scully and Mulders to be human. I have enjoyed Buffy, Angel, and Blade. I'm not slagging these shows, only pointing out a trend I don't care for. But the over-all effect of this type of ghostbreaker is too akin to a superhero showdown rather than a more Mystery approach a la Carnacki, John Silence, or even Jules de Grandin.

A show I really enjoyed in the first six seasons was Supernatural with its culture of Hunters: humans who prowl the night, protecting humanity. (The show took a left turn I couldn’t endure after this, forgetting about ghostbreaking and becoming a soap opera about a war between Heaven and Hell. Sigh.) The early episodes were more my speed, rather than someone trying to hook up with a vampire. (My favorite line is when Dean Winchester says, "Suck this, Twilight" and blows away a vamp.) The story lines I have enjoyed the most are those when the boys hunt, rather than consort with Satan and angels, and save/destroy the world. I wish the producer McG would create a spin-off show called Tales of the Hunters (or something better) in which we don't go off to save the world each week but just hunt. Kind of a CSI-Supernatural.

This is something X-Files might have done if it hadn't turned into a soap opera about UFOs. (Why does this keep happening?) The Kolchak remake, The Dresden Files, Constantine, and The Exorcist tried, but all were met with cancellation. Perhaps my dream is simply too uncommercial? Doesn’t anyone want a show about humans surrounded by monsters, trying to save humanity from the darkness? Well, besides The Walking Dead? (As long as Rick and his friends are never joined by a zombie sidekick, there might be hope.) Robert Kirkman’s Outcast is another bright light (odd phrase for such a dark show). Kyle Barnes and the Rev certainly are old school, but the show is limited in its scope. It wouldn’t work with new kinds of threats showing up each week.

So I sigh and keep hoping for a truly old school ghostbreaker show to appear. This may show my "raised in rural Canada" background, but all I can say is, "Let's hunt!"

GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

As far as the soap opera element goes I think the series premise for a genre show starts to wear down over time and soap opera elements help keep it going since it's has tropes are proven to have longevity and by the time you get past the fifth or sixth season almost all of your viewers have been there since the start and can follow and appreciate these relationships and complicated plot changes.

Caffeinated Joe said...

I agree about Supernatural. The show was so much better dealing with monsters-of-the-week. I still watch and sometimes I just hope for those one-off episodes to appear.

And there is much truth here about the humans being the characters we can relate the most to. I love hos Xander was the one to save Willow from herself. I am also glad, resurrections aside, Dean and Sam are still humans in a world of monsters, angels and demons.


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